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Journal of Democracy 11.4 (2000) 139-146
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Is Iran Democratizing?
Voices from Within
Selections from the Iranian Press
The following essay, "Playing with the People's Choice," was written by Mahmoud Fazeli Birjandi. It appeared in the daily Fatthon 5 April 2000, while the Council of Guardians was still in the process of reviewing the election results.
Fifty days have passed since the elections in Tehran and 40 other constituencies, and we have still received no word on the final results. Today, 30 days after the elections to the sixth parliament, the people of Iran could have been celebrating not only their sweet month-old victory at the polls but also the 49th anniversary of the nationalization of the oil industry [by Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh], one of the milestones of reform in Iran. But eight days before they could do anything of the sort, one of the pioneers of the current reform movement--the man who had invited the people to restructure the parliament--was shot.
The attempted assassination of Saäd Hajarian [a former high-ranking intelligence officer who became a leading reformist and an adviser to President Khatami] shook Iran to such a degree that all other news seemed insignificant by comparison. Yet after 22 days, as the furor over that violent act dies down, the question that was not posed at the time out of respect and concern for Mr. Hajarian must be asked now: What has become of the election results in Tehran and the other constituencies?
This is the first time in 20 years that the Council of Guardians has questioned the validity of the Tehran elections and has called for the ballot boxes to be counted again. Although the Council has never before questioned the validity of the Tehran elections, now it begins to have its doubts--now that the people's choices disturb it. Even the second vote count was stopped in the middle, as the results were proving undesirable to the Council. Patiently and silently, the country watched as those in power ignored the people's choice and did as they pleased.
The prospects created by the second count incited some people to shoot the architect of parliamentary reform [Saäd Hajarian]. For several [End Page 139] days, the people kept quiet. But now they want to know what the Council of Guardians plans to do with their choice of candidates. The Council is only supposed to observe the elections. Yet it now appears to insist on approving the people's selection as well; otherwise nothing will be accomplished. Before the elections, the Council of Guardians had also imposed its will on the people, rejecting or approving for no good reason . . . the candidacy of those wishing to run for parliament. Since only approved nominees remained in the running, what is the need for bickering now over who won?
Can the Council of Guardians approve or reject the people's choice? It is not out of ignorance or infirmity that the people merely watch in patience and silence what the Council is doing. The people of Iran have come to realize that violent political and social conflict . . . is not as effective as patience.
Now the question is: Gentlemen, why are you insisting on such a course of action? The people's vote is not your plaything! You can count the vote ten times if you like, but you can neither change the present result to suit your desires nor gain any future benefit by doing so. Show respect to your people and their choice of candidates. The Iranian people do not wish to seek revenge. They will forgive you for what you have done so far. It is not too late for you to join their side. United, we can work toward a better life. Stop playing with the people's choice and remember that no one has a monopoly over power and sovereignty. . . .
The following essay by Hassan Youssefi-Ashkevari appeared in the newspaper Asr Azadegan on 9 January...